Do you have any bad habits when it comes to your reading? Or do you read in a way to offset or correct a bad habit you are susceptible to?
I know that some people will stop reading a book part way through if they are not enjoying it. I used to be the same and can understand the ‘life is too short’ argument, but I considered it a bad habit. So, I now force myself to read books to completion no matter how painful. We can all think of books or films that have been redeemed by an excellent final part that has forced us to reconsider all that came before it in a new context. So, I try and give all books the opportunity to change my early impression.
One thing I do consider a bad habit of mine takes a little explaining. If I find myself blown away by a book by an author I have not read before, so much that I would have to consider a place for it under my favourites, I find myself reluctant to read more from that author! I guess I am scared that they will disappoint me with their other works. On the other hand, if I am disappointed by a book by a well-regarded writer, I will happily pick up another book of theirs to give them a chance to change my mind!
The net result of this is that, if I think of the authors I have read the most, they tend to be authors I don’t particularly like! Alternatively, it is difficult for me to name my favourite authors as it is often the case that I have not read much of their work, often just one book!
Ernest Hemingway and Kazuo Ishiguro are two examples of writers I have kept returning to thinking (hoping) they will change my impression of their work. I have read a few books of each but I can’t say I like them. At the other end of the spectrum are authors like Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami, who I have thoroughly enjoyed but have read less of their work.
I can easily name favourite books but favourite authors are difficult to qualify. They would have to be someone who has more than one book that I would consider a favourite. Salman Rushdie probably comes closest with Midnight’s Children and The Moor’s Last Sigh, though I did not enjoy The Satanic Verses. I have a feeling that Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens will break through when I read more of their work as well as Atwood and Murakami.
But is my bad habit justified? Are there authors who have gone up or down in my estimation as a result of more experience?
My first introduction to Michael Crichton was Jurassic Park, which I still love. Sphere is a great idea and has a great opening but it does not develop into a great story. And I did not like his later novels Prey or the posthumous Pirate Latitudes. Despite my love for Jurassic Park, I have not read The Lost World (though I plan to). I guess I understand why I enjoyed Jurassic Park so much and I expect The Lost World to be very different. I would have to add Jane Austen here too. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourites but I did not enjoy Emma or Persuasion. That being said, I will certainly read the rest of her novels and will give Emma and Persuasion another chance someday.
An example of an author who has moved in the opposite direction for me is Stephen King. My introduction to King was Needful Things, which was relatively new at the time I first bought it. I wanted to start with Needful Things because I wanted to avoid the books that made his name and instead read something with no attached legend to influence me. I think I attempted Needful Things three or four times before I managed to force myself to finish it and I could not tell you much about it now. I did not read Stephen King again for a long time, but the common pop-cultural references to Salem’s Lot drew me back. I had no trouble finishing it but I was not terribly impressed. Meeting my wife, who is a King fan, drew me back. I read The Stand and that was very entertaining. Then I turned to a novel that, based on its blurb, I had a strong suspicion I would enjoy. I was not wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Misery.
But I don’t think my bad habit will last. I can’t avoid Atwood, Murakami and others for too long. Soon I will have read enough books of different authors to feel confident in saying who my favourites are.
But what is your bad reading habit? How would you wish you read differently